Voxon: the future is right now

Claire Kimber, Group Innovation Director

Three things have blown my mind in the last week: 1. The world is flat, 2. The future is right now, and 3. Human eyes are brilliant.

All three are bold claims, all are factually correct, and all clearly need some explaining – especially in the context of OOH.

So, let’s take this point-by-point.

  1. The world is flat.

Well, it sort of is. Our eyes can only produce 2-dimensional images. To ‘see’ the truest form of the world around us and the objects that sit within it, our brains need to press play on some mind-boggling jiggery-pokery that converts these flat images into the 3-dimensional world we live in.

  1. The future is right now.

You heard me correctly, and I won’t be dissuaded because I saw it with my own 2D eyes. And without a headset or glasses. Yes, the super-brains at Voxon Photonics have built the most stunning 3D volumetric display (in the form of the sexily titled Voxon VX1)… a digital visual technology pumped up on data, allowing the naked human eye to see a real-time, high-definition, interactive hologram.

Unlike the Pepper’s Ghost technique* (think: the Titanium Cannes Lion-winning Tupac famously ‘performing’ as a ‘hologram’ at Coachella – thanks to Musion and Digital Domain – back in the dark ages of 2012), this isn’t an illusion… it doesn’t even require a forced perspective; the objects can be viewed from multiple angles, and the results are incredibly impressive (for starters, you can play 3D Pacman, see inside an MRI scan, turn mathematical equations into art) … and interactive (if using Leap Motion or similar).

Not only is it a visually spellbinding development, it’s also potentially a new form of communications; on Sept 3rd live on the BBC’s Digital Planet show, Voxon conducted the world’s first international holographic video call. Which means the world is now basically Star Wars.

But apart from building endless iterations of Princess Leia, the tech has myriad potential applications… not least in the OOH space. What they are, well, that’s up to us because as with all frontiers, it is the responsibility of those who see things that others cannot to forge new ways of seeing, new remixes of seeing, and new things to see.

Just as our brains convert and converge two flat images into 3D vistas, we need to press play on some mind-boggling jiggery-pokery to arrive at some all-new 3D thinking for 3D tech to give us new things to see in the OOH space.

  1. Human eyes are brilliant.

See above.

*Pepper’s Ghost, the joint invention of London-based engineer Henry Dircks and scientist John Henry Pepper, was first shown in an 1862 stage production of Charles Dickens’ The Haunted Man. The illusion is based on a simple but deft piece of visual trickery: an unseen figure in a darkened room is lit and reflected on to an angled pane of glass, to give the impression they are floating on the stage. It’s a low-tech piece of razzmatazz that has since been adapted for modern stage shows (Ghost the Musical) and theme-park attractions (Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion).

[The] Glass has now been replaced with a tightly stretched translucent foil and a hidden performer with projected high-definition video… For all the focus on the 3D effect of Musion’s projection, it only tells half the story of how the effect is achieved. The other half is the creation of a “digital human”, which involves a physically similar stand-in being filmed wearing motion-capture markers in front of a green screen. From here, visual artists combine data from the body double’s performance with archive live footage and, if available, 3D scans, to create a mutable, computer-generated likeness of the celebrity. Known as facial rigs, these involve meticulous toil – the Tupac team worked round the clock for two months in a room plastered with pictures of the rapper – but when complete, they supply the VFX team with an entire bank of facial movements and expressions to manipulate.

Finally this video is projected on to a mirror at the foot of the stage, then bounced back on to that angled, undetectably thin scrim of reflective material. (WIRED, JIMI FAMUREWA, May 8th 2018)